$6M Legionnaire’s Suit Filed Against Hotel

OCEAN CITY — Five months after the presence of Legionnaire’s Disease was confirmed at a historic Boardwalk hotel, one of the six victims late last month filed a $6 million lawsuit against the facility and its ownership group.

In October, the Maryland Department of Health and Mental Hygiene and the Worcester County Health Department confirmed the presence of legionellosis, more commonly known as Legionnaire’s Disease, in the water system at the Plim Plaza Hotel on the Boardwalk after as many as six individuals who had stayed at the facility during the late summer months had contracted the disease. One of the victims, an elderly out-of-state guest at the hotel, later succumbed to symptoms of the disease.

On April 18, a Virginia couple, Pat Eldon Dent, Jr. and his wife Martha Dent, filed suit in U.S. District Court alleging negligence on the part of the hotel for failing to “adequately inspect, monitor and maintain its premises and the hotel’s water system for dangerous conditions, including but not limited to the presence of legionella.” The Virginia couple is seeking a total of $6 million in compensatory damages, including $5 million for the negligence count and an additional $1 million for loss of consortium.

“At all relevant times, the defendants owed Mr. Dent a duty to inspect, maintain, repair and operate the water system on the premises, including but not limited to the hotel’s water faucets, showers, pool and hot tub or spa in a reasonable and prudent manner with due regard for the safety and health of persons invited by the defendants to use this facility, including Mr. Dent,” the complaint reads. “Defendants failed to exercise reasonable care in the discharge of these duties with the result that the defendant’s water system became contaminated with dangerous levels of the Legionella bacteria from July 29 through August 1.

According to the complaint, Dent arrived at the Plim Plaza on Friday, July 29 and left on Monday, August 1. During their stay, the Dents used the facilities open to the guests of the hotel including the facility’s water system via faucets, showers, pool and hot tub or spa. After returning to Virginia on August 1, Dent began to feel week and feverish. On August 10, he was admitted to a Virginia hospital with a high fever and was diagnosed with Legionnaire’s Disease, a potentially fatal form of pneumonia caused by inhaling mist or vapor from water containing the Legionella bacteria.

According to the complaint, Dent required an extensive hospitalization during which he was intubated for approximately six weeks, which included a tube down his throat and a tracheostomy tube. He experienced renal failure, septic shock and respiratory failure. Dent also required a feeding tube and catheter for approximately six weeks and incurred bills in excess of $200,000.

“As a result of the aforesaid negligence, Mr. Dent contracted Legionnaire’s disease as a result of his stay at the Plim Plaza hotel,” the complaint reads. “The contraction of Legionnaire’s Disease has caused him great pain, suffering and mental anguish and other serious permanent injuries. Mr. Dent has been damaged in other ways.”

After a link between the ill victims and the Plim Plaza was established in October, the DHMH Laboratories Administration conducted extensive testing and confirmed the presence of legionella bacteria in water collected at the facility. Legionella pneumophia, the bacteria that causes Legionnaire’s Disease, was detected in water collected from various locations at the hotel.

While the Worcester County Health Department and DHMH conducted their investigation, Plim Plaza management and the parent Harrison Group was proactive and cooperative from the start, according to state and local health officials.